Mississippi State Names First Black SEC Head CoachSTARKVILLE, Miss.For the first time in its 71-year history, the Southeastern Conference has an African American head football coach. Sylvester Croom, a veteran of 28 years coaching on the professional and collegiate levels, was named head football coach at Mississippi State University earlier this month.“We went after the best football coach, and we’re confident we found that individual in Sylvester Croom. We’re excited to welcome him to the Mississippi State family,” says athletic director Larry Templeton.The Green Bay Packers assistant coach was greeted with a standing ovation, cheers and the clanging of a few of the Bulldogs fans’ beloved cowbells at a packed news conference.Croom tried to play down the significance of his hiring, even though SEC commissioner Mike Slive called it historic.“I am the first African American coach in the SEC, but there ain’t but one color that matters here and that color is maroon,” said Croom, referring to the school color.Croom, 49, has spent 17 years of his coaching career in the National Football League, including the last three years as running backs coach with the Green Bay Packers. He also worked with Detroit, San Diego, Tampa Bay and Indianapolis on the professional level. Croom also has 11 years experience on the college level at the University of Alabama, helping the team win back-to-back national championships in 1978 and 1979.A 1975 graduate of the University of Alabama, Croom was a three-year letterman for coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, earning all-SEC and all-America recognition following his senior season. He was the starting center on Alabama’s 1973 national title team.Croom almost became the first Black head coach in the SEC earlier this year, but his alma mater passed him up. Alabama chose Mike Shula, who is White, despite Croom having more experience.Croom figured his chance to break the so-called color barrier in the SEC had passed.“I always thought that if it did happen in the SEC it would happen, for whichever individual was fortunate enough to have that opportunity, it would be at his alma mater because people knew him,” Croom said.But Templeton offered him a chance to turn around the Bulldogs, who have won just eight games the past three years. — Associated Press and news release
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